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Dean's Statement on Recent Mass Shootings

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Dear GSS Community:

Debra McPhee GSS DeanI have been Dean at Fordham for over six years and this is at least the sixth community message I have felt compelled to write following a mass shooting. If I were to send you a statement after every mass shooting that occurred in the United States, you would have received 267 statements from me since January alone. Mass shootings, generally defined as resulting in four or more victims in a single incident, now occur with numbing regularity. The word “tragic” has been used many times in the past week to describe the mass murders perpetrated in Texas and Ohio. It seems to me that “tragic” is a word that should be reserved to describe a horrible car accident, a sudden natural disaster, or an awful event that can be neither predicted nor prevented. None of these conditions applies to the mass shootings in the United States.

Mass shootings now occur at an alarming rate all across the country. Our current average is one mass shooting every day. This means that the next mass shooting is not unpredictable. It is guaranteed. How then is it that our political leaders continue to get away with acting as though prevention is out of their control? Our political leaders would have us believe they are powerless to either predict or prevent the conditions that give rise to the vulnerability and fear now characterizing all of our daily lives.

Without question, our thoughts and hearts are with the victims and loved ones in El Paso, Dayton, and many, many other communities. As social workers, we offer our compassion and skills through trauma intervention helping families and whole communities to try to make sense of the unimaginable. But, what about prevention? Where does prevention fall on our professional list of priorities? Our social work profession is anchored by a rich tradition of activism and commitment to social justice. This means that social and political action cannot be left to only a few. Our professional commitment to social and political justice compels us to stand alongside the families of Sandy Hook, the high school kids of Parkland Florida, and so many other victims, families and communities. It compels us to lead the way for meaningful political action on gun control, gun safety legislation, confronting racism, rejecting the rhetoric of hate and exclusion, and refusing to accept the persistent conditions of economic and social oppression – the list is long. As social work professionals and as a profession, let us turn trauma and helplessness into political action at the local and the national level. Let us serve our clients and our communities by acting for the necessary changes that prioritize prevention as much as intervention.

Here are some ways your voice can be heard: (list contributed to by